10 English Pronunciation Errors by Portuguese Speakers

[ssba] What are the main errors for Portuguese speakers in English pronunciation? Here we have highlighted some of the common errors experienced by Portuguese and Brazilian students at Pronunciation Studio:

1. th

The ‘th’ sounds /θ/ and /ð/ do not occur in Portuguese, which means that Portuguese-speakers may commonly use /s/ or /z/ instead:

I think three of them are Northerners.

2. /r/

Typically heard when Brazilian students speak – the smooth English ‘r’ sound is replaced by a Brazilian ‘r’ which is made further down in the throat with a lot of friction and sometimes sounds like ‘h’ to English ears:

Remember to reduce, reuse or recycle.

3. Silent ‘r’

In GB English, we don’t pronounce a written ‘r’ when it comes before a consonant sound or if it is at the end of a word:

far, sport, affirm, teacher, worthwhile

4. /h/

Portuguese-speakers sometimes miss the /h/ sound – though there are some exceptions (honour, vehicle) it is normally pronounced:

Hi Harry, how was your holiday in Hastings?

5. dark l [ɫ]

Brazilian students typically round the lips at the same time as saying a final /l/ sound, giving a sort of ‘w’ sound. Remember to keep the lips relaxed and use the tongue to touch the alveolar ridge and raise at the back of the mouth:

small, poll, hold, field, alter

6. aspiration

The English /p/,/t/ and /k/ sounds are often ‘aspirated’ – when a native speaker says these sounds, they release quite a lot of air just after the sound, this doesn’t occur in Portuguese:

Karen and Katie kept cuddling the incredibly cute camels.

7. /d/

Sometimes Brazilian students turn ‘d’ into a /dʒ/ sound, but In English, the /d/ sound stays the same no matter which vowel comes after it:

difficult, divide, different

8. /ə/

The most common vowel sound in English is weak – the schwa /ə/, but it can appear in unpredictable places and with the spelling of any vowel, Portuguese speakers may replace it with a more predictable vowel based on spelling:

father, about, compare, celebration, second

9. /i:/ vs. /ɪ/

English has two close vowels: /i:/ and /ɪ/, where Portuguese only uses a sound closer to /i/, so Portuguese-speakers need to relax the mouth more to make /ɪ/:

feet / fit, leave / live, green / grin, seep / sip, deed / did

10. Spelling

One of the frustrating things about learning English is that the relationship between the spelling and sound is less straightforward compared to Portuguese. Portuguese-speakers should remember that not all letters will be pronounced the way they look and some will even be silent!

Germany (silent r, vowels /ɜ:/ and /ə/, not /e/ and /æ/)


This article uses English IPA symbols – learn each of them with pronunciation notesdiagrams and audio in Pronunciation Studio’s free Starter Pack.